I Couldn’t Have Said It Better

This morning’s OpEd by Frank Bruni in the New York Times took the words right out of my mouth.  I think most everyone who reads Filosofa’s Word will be able to relate to his words, will find themselves nodding and saying, “Yes, that’s it exactly!”  His piece won’t change any minds … at this late date, just 5 days before the most consequential election of our lifetime, minds are already made up, votes already cast.  But Bruni gives us food for thought, and that’s all most of us can do.


How Will I Ever Look at America the Same Way Again?

Oct. 29, 2020

bruni-2By Frank Bruni

It’s always assumed that those of us who felt certain of Hillary Clinton’s victory in 2016 were putting too much trust in polls.

I was putting too much trust in Americans.

I’d seen us err. I’d watched us stray. Still I didn’t think that enough of us would indulge a would-be leader as proudly hateful, patently fraudulent and flamboyantly dishonest as Donald Trump.

We had episodes of ugliness, but this? No way. We were better than Trump.

Except, it turned out, we weren’t.

Never mind that the Russians gave him a boost. Or that he lost the popular vote. Some 46 percent of the Americans who cast ballots for president in 2016 picked him, and as he moved into the White House and proceeded to soil it, most of those Americans stood by him solidly enough that Republicans in Congress didn’t dare to cross him and in fact went to great, conscience-immolating lengths to prop him up. These lawmakers weren’t swooning for a demagogue. They were reading the populace.

And it was a populace I didn’t recognize, or at least didn’t want to.

What has Trump’s presidency taken from us? I’m reasonably sure that many Americans feel the same loss that I do, and I’m struggling to assign just one word to it.

Innocence? Optimism? Faith? Go to the place on the Venn diagram where those states of mind overlap. That’s the piece of me now missing when I look at this beloved country of mine.

Trump snuffed out my confidence, flickering but real, that we could go only so low and forgive only so much. With him we went lower — or at least a damningly large percentage of us did. In him we forgave florid cruelty, overt racism, rampant corruption, exultant indecency, the coddling of murderous despots, the alienation of true friends, the alienation of truth itself, the disparagement of invaluable institutions, the degradation of essential democratic traditions.

He played Russian roulette with Americans’ lives. He played Russian roulette with his own aides’ lives. In a sane and civil country, of the kind I long thought I lived in, his favorability ratings would have fallen to negative integers, a mathematical impossibility but a moral imperative. In this one, they never changed all that much.

Polls from mid-October showed that about 44 percent of voters approved of Trump’s job performance — and this was after he’d concealed aspects of his coronavirus infection from the public, shrugged off the larger meaning of it, established the White House as its own superspreader environment and cavalierly marched on.

Forty-four percent. Who in God’s name are we?

I’m not forgetting pre-Trump American history. I’m not erasing hundreds of years of slavery, the internment of Japanese Americans, the many kinds of discrimination that have flourished in my own lifetime, all the elections in which we Americans made stupid choices and all the presidents who did “un-American” things. We’re a grossly imperfect country, our behavior at frequent odds with our ideals.

But for every abomination, I could name a moment of grace. For many of our sins, stabs at atonement. We demonstrated a yearning to correct our mistakes and, I think, a tropism toward goodness. On balance we were open, generous. When I traveled abroad, people from other countries routinely complimented Americans for that. They experienced us as arrogant, but also as special.

Now they just pity us.

How much of this can we pin on Trump? Not as much as we try to. And oh, how we’ve tried. This obsession of the news media and his detractors with every last eccentricity and inanity isn’t just about keeping a complete record, I’ve come to realize. It’s also a deflection, an evasion: If he gets the whole of the stage, then Americans’ complicity and collaboration are shoved into the wings.

And the freakier we make him out to be, the less emblematic he is. The more he becomes a random, isolated event. We emphasized what a vanquishable opponent Hillary Clinton was because that diminished the significance of the vanquishing and the vanquisher. We spoke of a perfect storm of circumstances that led to his election as a way of disowning the weather.

We cheered on Robert Mueller’s investigation not just because it might hold Trump and his wretched accomplices to account but also because it might explain him away, proving that he reached the White House by cheating, not because he was what nearly half of the country decided that they wanted.

We tried to make him a one-and-done one-off. But deep into his presidency, when his execrable character had been fully exposed, his Fox News cheerleaders continued to draw huge audiences for their sycophantic panegyrics.

Trump himself continued to attract big crowds to his rallies, like the one in Greenville, N.C., in July 2019, when he pressed his attack on four Democratic congresswomen of color, including Representative Ilhan Omar, who immigrated from Somalia. Egged on by him, his audience chanted: “Send her back! Send her back!” He stopped speaking to give those words room, and he soaked them in.

Or what about the recent rally in Muskegon, Mich., where he freshly assailed the state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, despite the fact that his obsessive denunciations of her had possibly been a factor in an alleged plot by 14 men to kidnap her? “Lock her up!” many of the attendees bellowed, to Trump’s obvious amusement.

Again, how has his approval rating not fallen to negative integers?

I’m not saying that support for him is spun entirely of malice or bias. Keen economic anxiety and profound political estrangement are why many voters turned to him, as my Times colleague Farah Stockman explained especially well in a recent editorial that was set in America’s disheartened heartland. “Even false hope,” she noted, “is a form of hope, perhaps the most ubiquitous kind.”

The headline on the article was “Why They Loved Him.” But why haven’t more of them stopped loving him? And how did so many Americans beyond that group fall so hard for him, thrilling to his recklessness, applauding his divisiveness, indulging his unscrupulousness? He tapped into more cynicism and nihilism than this land of boundless tomorrows was supposed to contain.

He tapped into more conspiratorialism, too. And I do mean “tapped.” Trump didn’t draw out anything that wasn’t already there, burbling beneath the surface.

He didn’t sire white supremacists. He didn’t script the dark fantasies of QAnon. He didn’t create all the Americans who rebelled against protective masks and mocked those who wore them, a selfish mind-set that helps explain our tragic lot. It just flourished under him.

And it will almost certainly survive him. The foul spirit of these past five years — I’m including his hateful campaign — has been both pervasive and strangely proud. That’s what makes it different. That’s what makes it so chilling.

I could be overreacting. Maybe, just ahead, there will be moments of grace, enough of them to redeem us. Maybe I’ll look up on or after Nov. 3 and see that Biden has won North Carolina, has won Michigan, has won every closely contested state and the presidency in a landslide. Maybe I’ll have to eat my words.

Please, my fellow Americans, feed me my words. I’d relish that meal.

End of Republican National Convention 🙏

As I’ve noted before, I did not waste so much as a single minute watching the ludicrous circus that was called the Republican National Convention.  I read a few news stories about the cast of clowns who spoke, nothing really surprised me, and I chose to largely ignore it, for I really do have better things to do with my time than listen to a pack of ugly clowns telling lies and screeching like banshees.  Frank Bruni, writing for the New York Times, however, gives us his take on the “grand finale” last night with his usual clear insight and tongue-in-cheek humour.


Is There Nothing Trump Won’t Say?

Shamelessness meets illogic in a memorable (and endless) speech.

bruni-2By Frank Bruni

Opinion Columnist

I’m so relieved that the pandemic is over! I’d somehow missed that news, but then I watched the Republican National Convention, culminating in President Trump’s big speech on Thursday night, and learned that with his swift, muscular action, he’d pretty much vanquished the “China virus” and other countries wish they were so lucky. I learned that the economic toll of it was fast receding and would be a blurry memory soon.

I learned that it’s now perfectly safe for hundreds of people to sit cheek by jowl without masks, because that’s what they did in order to bathe the president in applause and chants of “four more years.” I learned that anyone who says different is just being a hater. But Trump is a lover. I learned that, too.

How to reconcile that with the vicious tone and vitriolic content of much of his remarks, which were as grounded in reality as a Tolkien novel and about as long? I’m stumped.

But I’m impressed: that he claimed such big-heartedness while showing such small-mindedness; that he twisted facts with such abandon and in such abundance; that he again trotted out that nonsense about having done more for Black Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln; that he disparaged Joe Biden for not “following the science” about Covid-19 when he, Trump, mused about injections of bleach and vouched recklessly for hydroxychloroquine; that he characterized Biden’s positions as a “death sentence for the U.S. auto industry” when the Obama administration helped to save American carmakers.

It was an astonishing performance.

When Joe Biden spoke a week earlier, he never uttered Trump’s name. Trump sure as hell uttered Biden’s, over and over, in order to call him a latent leftist or an enemy of cops or a friend of terrorists or a baby killer or the bridge to economic Armageddon or any other awful thing that popped into Trump’s and his speechwriters’ minds.

A few of Trump’s attacks in particular demonstrated one of his superpowers, which is smearing opponents along the very lines where he’s most flawed and vulnerable. It’s a crafty form of denial and a potent kind of diversion — you just have to be amoral enough to avail yourself of it.

Trump availed and availed. There was the science bit, and then there was the suggestion that he had special intelligence that China was rooting and possibly working for a Biden victory because, in Trump’s words, “China would own our country if Joe Biden got elected.” If ever a hostile foreign power connived for a certain result and seemed to own an American president in the aftermath, it’s Russia in the case of Trump. But that didn’t give him pause.

He also accused Biden of betraying blue-collar workers as he “gave them hugs — and even kisses.” The “kisses” prompted laughter from people in the audience, who clearly heard what Trump surely intended: an allusion to some women’s stories about Biden. But those accounts pale, in number and severity, beside the accusations of sexual assault by Trump and his “Access Hollywood” confession of grabbing women “by the pussy.”

Still, Trump went there. He’ll go anywhere. And a shockingly large number of Americans will follow him.

On Thursday night he didn’t just give a middle finger to norms by delivering his convention speech at the White House. He reveled in that naughtiness. He milked the magisterial setting for all it was worth, appearing first with Melania on a balcony, then taking an eternity to descend a curved staircase with her, then musing aloud on the history of the residence, complete with a roll call of many of its most beloved denizens before him.

He later taunted Democrats by gesturing at it and saying, “We’re here and they’re not.”

This wasn’t patriotism. It was puerility. He was rubbing his rebellion against tradition and presidential etiquette in his critics’ faces.

He also insisted that he had kept all his promises. Really? How’s that wall coming, Mr. President? And will Mexico’s payments for it come in installments or one lump sum?

He said precious little about the pandemic, except to blame it all on China, and he most certainly didn’t mention that we’re No. 1 in the world in recorded deaths (more than 180,000) and in reported infections, which are quickly nearing 6 million. He had different figures, ones that painted us as the envy of other countries. Gee, then why aren’t they letting Americans visit? Is that just sour grapes?

Given how thoroughly the convention had reinvented Trump, I half expected him to show up at the lectern on Thursday night with the physique of a man half his age and the hair of a man in less follicular distress. If he’s going to fabricate his character and record, inserting a saint in his place, why not do the same with his appearance, inserting a stud?

I wrote in a previous column that this convention was defined by its shamelessness, which President Trump’s speech certainly exemplified. I gave short shrift to its illogic.

Why would we need to make America great again again — an actual pledge that Mike Pence made on Wednesday night — if Trump had made America great again already? This isn’t a re-election campaign. It’s a tape loop. I’m surprised Trump on Thursday night didn’t crow that he alone can fix what he alone didn’t fix despite more than three and a half years so far to do so.

He did tell Americans to look long, hard and fearfully at recent scenes of lawlessness and violence in some cities for a glimpse of Biden’s America. But, wait, isn’t this Trump’s America? The unrest is happening on his watch, so how does keeping him in office protect America from it?

It takes a vacuum of integrity to sell such bunk with such righteousness. It takes a Trump.

Like Ivanka! Introducing her father, she bragged that he, unlike those icky career politicians, didn’t “kick the can until it was someone else’s problem.” Did she mean a can like the national debt, which he promised to curb but which ballooned monstrously during his first term, even before the pandemic came along?

Ivanka achieved a norm-busting double whammy by not only shilling at the White House but deciding that it was OK as a federal employee to make a nakedly partisan speech at an expressly partisan event, much as Kellyanne Conway and Mike Pompeo and Ben Carson before her had done. It was another trailblazing moment for America’s princess, who can put a picture of it in her photo album alongside portraits of her and the president with Kim Jong-un in the Demilitarized Zone.

Will this mix of pageantry and prevarication work? My stomach is in knots, maybe just because the stakes are so high, maybe because Trump offers the kind of simple answers and jingoism that are often most seductive to voters, maybe because, in the midst of all the malarkey, there was a cunning recognition of where Biden and Democrats are weak.

“How,” Trump said, “can the Democrat Party ask to lead our country when it spends so much time tearing down our country?”

That’s a misrepresentation, of course, but one that will have resonance for many voters. Biden should beware of it and shut it down, lest Trump’s barely endurable speech presage a wholly unendurable second term.

To Impeach Or Not To Impeach?

Impeachment, or as the juvenile in the Oval Office calls it, “the I-word”, is on everybody’s mind today.  It is the first thing you will see when you log onto any news website, pick up a newspaper, or turn on your television.  I want to cheer Speaker Pelosi’s decision to move forward by opening an official impeachment inquiry, for it is what most of us have wanted since long before the Mueller report was released.  In truth, the Mueller report was enough to justify impeachment, but instead it was swept under that rug that so many of Trump’s atrocities have been swept under.  That rug must be getting pretty darn lumpy by now!sweep_under_rug

I would like to see Trump impeached, though we all know that the Senate, comprised of a majority of republicans who are too scared of Trump, will not convict and therefore he will stay in office.  Still, being impeached is a stain on a president’s reputation and should ensure that he cannot be re-elected, right?  Well, maybe not.  Worse yet, what if his impeachment actually helps him win in 2020?  Ross Douthat wrote an excellent analysis of this in the New York Times, and just a bit ago, our friend Ellen sent me this one by Frank Bruni, also writing for the Times.  Please read and think about this, let me know what your thoughts are.  Unfortunately, Trump is no Nixon, and is unlikely to go down without a fight.  And, those who still support him after all the chaos and corruption, are not likely to listen to reason or to care what he does, but will stick with him like super-glue.

Why a Trump Impeachment Should Terrify You


What’s just and what’s wise aren’t always the same.

bruni-2By 

President Trump deserves to be impeached. But the prospect terrifies me, and it should terrify you, too.

That’s not to say that it’s the wrong move. Arguably, it’s the only move, at least in terms of fidelity to the Constitution and to basic decency. From the moment that Trump stepped into the office of the presidency, he has degraded it — with words that a president has no business speaking (or tweeting); with ceaseless lies; with raging conflicts of interest; with managerial ineptitude; with foreign dealings that compromise America’s values and independence. How can principled lawmakers not tell him, in the most emphatic manner available, that enough is enough?

But there’s no way to say what happens now that a formal impeachment inquiry is being opened. None. You’re going to hear a lot in coming days and weeks about Bill Clinton, but using the example of his impeachment in late 1998 is a bit ridiculous: He was a very different president accused of very different offenses at a very different time. Besides which, political analysts who do cite it don’t agree on the lessons.

Any scenario is possible, including one in which impeachment redounds to Trump’s benefit and increases the chances of his re-election, because he paints himself a martyr, eludes conviction in the Senate, frames that as exoneration and watches his fans mobilize and turn out as never before. And a second Trump term would be disastrous. Morally as well as practically, limiting this unfit, amoral, unsteady man’s time in the presidency takes precedence over any small cluster of sentences written centuries ago.

But while impeachment’s impact on November 2020 would be unknowable, its effect between now and then would be almost certain. A dangerously polarized and often viciously partisan country would grow more so, with people on opposing sides hunkering down deeper in their camps and clinging harder to their chosen narratives as the president — concerned only with himself — ratcheted up his insistence that truth itself was subjective and up for grabs.

That’s not a reason to blink, but it’s a reality to brace for. At a juncture when we so desperately need to rediscover common ground, we’d be widening the fault lines.

Impeachment should terrify you because it would mean a continued, relentless, overwhelming focus on Trump’s lawlessness, antics, fictions and inane tweets. Most of the oxygen in Washington would consumed by the ghastly carnival of this barker, with too little left for the nation’s very real problems and for scrutiny of his substantive inadequacy in addressing them.

Where’s the infrastructure plan that we’re — oh — a quarter-century late in implementing? Where are the fixes to a health care system whose problems go far beyond the tens of millions of Americans still uninsured? What about education? Impeachment would shove all of those issues even further to the margins than they already are. And many Americans’ estrangement from Washington — their cynicism about its ability to improve their lives even a whit — would intensify.

And would impeachment proceedings really force Americans to focus on sins of Trump’s that are being ignored? That’s long been one of Democrats’ arguments for impeachment, but I wonder. There has been such saturation coverage of Trump that many voters may not be able to stomach it any more, and today’s political tribalism doesn’t allow for all that much in the way of epiphanies and transformations. Trump’s true colors were conspicuous from the start. You either saw a perverse rainbow or you stared into darkness.

Meanwhile, Trump. How rattled would he be by drawn-out impeachment proceedings and what would he do? He’s capable of anything. Maybe it’s not just a culture war that he’d whip up. Maybe it’s the real thing.

Certainly he’d toil to persuade Americans of the nefariousness of Democrats, and absolutely his strategy would be to smear the people, the procedures and the institutions arrayed against him as utterly unworthy of trust. If holding on to power meant ruling over rubble, so be it. Trump is beholden only to Trump, and he’d simply declare the rubble gold dust.

The Problem Of Americans Lacking Trust In The US President (Syrian Attack)

The chemical weapon attacks on the Province of Idlib on Tuesday, followed by the U.S. attacks on Shayrat air base in Syria on Thursday night, have stirred many theories, much controversy, and have sent those of us who demand answers scurrying to find answers to the many questions that are yet unanswered. My friend Gronda has positied her own thoughts, as well as others whose theories may be slightly different. What and why do we question? As Gronda says in her opening sentence, “It is sad when too many Americans don’t trust the republican President Donald Trump and the government he has created.” It is sad, indeed, but almost nobody other than his die-hard supporters believe what we are told by the Trump regime. Please read Gronda’s astute comments, thoughts, and reflections, and think about what this may mean for the future of U.S. foreign policy. Thank you, Gronda, for a very thought-provoking post!

Gronda Morin

Related imageIt is sad when too many Americans don’t trust the republican President Donald Trump and the government he has created.

If he does something right, it is assumed that it was by accident or that someone was playing him or that he is up to no good. There has to be an ulterior motive, somewhere. And any or all of the above could be true.

In this case, I simply do not want to believe the “wag the dog” theories because I genuinely am convinced that our president took the right tact in ordering a swift and limited military response to the Syrian military’s recent sarin gas attack on its own citizenry. But unfortunately there are these nagging doubts which keep seeping into my consciousness.  I am truly conflicted over all of these events having to do with the past week’s events in Syria.

A child receives treatment Tuesday at an Idlib province hospital after a suspected chemical attack. I have been putting some thought to this…

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